Former WWE Wrestler Ted DiBiase Jr. Charged In Mississippi Welfare Scandal

Former professional wrestler Ted DiBiase Jr. was charged for his involvement in the largest corruption case in the history of Mississippi, a welfare fraud scheme where roughly $77 million was misappropriated from intended recipients. The funds were meant for low-income families in the poorest state in the nation; however, DiBiase and other wealthy, well-connected people redirected the money for personal gain. DiBiase was the first person indicted by a federal grand jury in this massive scandal.[1]

Ted, Jr., along with his father Ted, Sr.—the WWE Hall of Famer ironically known as “The Million Dollar Man”—and brother Brett, allegedly received millions of dollars through their businesses in exchange for services that were not provided. Companies run by the DiBiases were awarded “sham contracts” by Mississippi’s Department of Human Services (MDHS) between 2016 and 2019.[2]

The indictment accuses DiBiase and his co-conspirators, including MDHS Director John Davis, of fraudulently obtaining federal money and using it for their own benefit. After funds were issued to MDHS by the federal government, Davis would shift the money using sub-grants from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) initiative to two nonprofit organizations, the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Inc. and the Mississippi Community Education Center. These two non-profits were operated by Christi Webb and Nancy New, respectively. Webb and New would then allegedly give “contracts” to various individuals and companies that “did not provide and did not intend to provide” the social services promised by the applicants.[3]

In 2017 and 2018, DiBiase, Jr. purportedly received five contracts collectively worth over $3 million through his companies, Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC. According to the Department of Justice, what was originally supposed to be used as anti-poverty funds supporting inner-city youth and leadership training turned into a new vehicle, a boat, and a down payment on the purchase of a house, among other expenditures.[4]

Ted, Sr.’s Heart of David Ministries allegedly acquired $1.7 million in welfare money for leadership training, plus another $250,000 through DiBiase Development Inc. for motivational speaking engagements, none of which ever occurred. The elder DiBiase was ordered to repay $722,000 in restitution as part of a civil lawsuit. He has since denied the accusations and requested that the civil suit be dismissed.[5]

Davis actively encouraged the non-profits to pay large sums to the DiBiases for work that they didn’t do. Emails suggest that Davis and Ted, Jr. even went into business together, developing a motivational training program called Law of 16. Naturally, this venture was also improperly funded by federal money. Ted, Jr.’s charges came roughly one month after his brother, Brett, pleaded guilty to a related crime that named them as co-conspirators. Brett was hired by Davis in 2017 to work for the Mississippi Community Education Center and teach classes about drug abuse. Instead, Davis spent $160,000 of TANF resources on Brett’s own opioid rehabilitation at the luxurious Rise in Malibu treatment facility located in southern California.[6]

Additionally, DiBiase, Jr. was given the title of Director of Sustainable Change for MDHS by Davis, despite not being employed by the state. In September of 2022, Davis pleaded guilty to conspiracy, theft, and fraud and agreed to testify against other people involved in the affair. Nancy New and her son, Zach, pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges a few months earlier. Webb pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning federal funds.[7]

Cooperation, particularly by Davis and Webb, and a subsequent federal audit helped to uncover the extent of this crime. Ted, Jr. was ordered to return $3.9 million, and Brett was commanded to pay $225,950. DiBiase, Jr. was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and four counts of money laundering.[8]

Ted, Jr. (left) with Brett (right) at their father’s 2010 WWE Hall of Fame induction — Image from AP News 

A trial is set for June 19. If convicted, DiBiase, Jr. faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and for each count of money laundering.[9]

New MDHS Executive Director Bob Anderson said that the agency has filed civil lawsuits against 38 entities connected to the welfare fraud scheme that has now inflated to $94 million in questionable spending. The case has ensnared other high-profile figures, including retired NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Favre has denied all wrongdoing and has not yet been criminally charged. In the civil lawsuit, the state accuses Favre of diverting approximately $8 million to his personal bank account and various pet projects.[10]

Between 2016 and 2018, the Mississippi Community Education Center distributed $5 million to the University of Southern Mississippi to build a new volleyball arena. USM is Favre’s alma mater and his daughter, Breleigh, played for the school’s volleyball team starting in 2017. In September of 2022, Mississippi Today published text messages exchanged by Favre, former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, and Nancy New. Favre requested that the funds be sent to USM, but he asked for them to be kept secret from the media. Furthermore, Favre was allegedly paid $1.1 million by MDHS as compensation for promoting a program called Families First, and for speaking engagements that never occurred. The remaining $2.1 million in welfare funds misspent on Favre were allegedly invested in a pharmaceutical company in which he had a stake. Favre once estimated that he had suffered 1,000 concussions over his 20-year career. The startup, Prevacus, was attempting to develop a nasal spray designed to quickly treat brain injuries caused by concussions.[11]

Mississippi has ranked among the most impoverished states in the U.S. for decades; however, only a fraction of its federal aid has reached families in dire need of help. The acts committed by the rich, powerful, and well-connected in this scandal are despicable and will likely cause disastrous ripple effects in Mississippi’s communities for years to come. Favre’s career earnings totaled $141 million. Meanwhile, as of 2021, the median individual income in the state of Mississippi was $26,807.





[5] Id.






[11] Id.

Photo Credit:

Ted DiBiase Jr. —

Ted Jr. and Brett with their father Ted Sr. —

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